East of Eden
Jesus is not coming soon
Provocative title, right? It caught my attention when I saw it over at Faithful Citizenship. Actually, there is a lot of provacation going on at the Progressive Christian Channel at Patheos. Both my eyebrows were raised and my jaw dropped at "Washed in His Blood My Ass"by Kimberly Knight. But back to the first post, which was written by Greg Garret and is really not as crazy as it sounds.
My family occupied Southern Baptist and Pentecostal churches, twin traditions that predicted the Rapture of the Saints as imminent, and millions of American Christians are still looking for the Rapture next Tuesday or so. The Rapture, for those of you fortunate enough not to have been inculcated with the belief, is a recent reading or misreading of scripture dating back to the 19th century, and made popular in the United States in the 20th by the Scofield Reference Bible (one of which I was given by my Assembly of God grandfather). In a primary understanding of the Rapture, Jesus will make a special trip back to lift the faithful into the skies before the Great Tribulation (since God wouldn't want God's people to remain among the suffering hordes), and then later, Jesus will return again (maybe he has frequent flyer miles) to preside over the Final Battle and the Final Judgment.
Some of my relatives have been trying to convince me for fifty years that the signs of the present moment are all in alignment ("Prince William is the Anti-Christ. Honest! This time I'm right!"), and the Rapture is about to occur, but I ain't buying it.
Whenever Christians go on and on about Heaven or Hell, or predict Jesus is going to return next week and take them home, the larger culture just thinks that we're crazy. All of us. The mistaken Raptures may be worst because they bring ridicule upon us all, since the secular world tends to think of Christianity as monolithic, and these very public mistakes cause even the sympathetic among the secular to ask, "If Christians are wrong about this, what else are they wrong about?"
But a focus on the end of things by Christians of any sort also deforms our faith. Christianity does have beliefs about what happens to us after we die and about the end of time but as N.T. Wright argues, most of us misunderstand those beliefs fundamentally: the Bible is not primarily about how we will go to Heaven when we die. So when we think of Christianity as largely or even mostly Afterlife Insurance, we will most certainly fail to come to grips with the many teachings in both the Old and New (Hebrew and Christian) Testaments about how the faithful should live in this present life.
Dr. Martin Luther King used to preach that the Gospel both saves our souls and transforms our lives. It demands faith and faithful living, constant prayer—and constant work. When all we're doing is marking time until Jesus comes back to get us, we fail to live as Jesus taught—in love, with courage and compassion, in the world.
Lots of strong points here. Read it in its entirety.